Perhaps Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant should stick to talking about basketball – or step into the real world when speaking out on race and black men in America. Bryant is embroiled in a firestorm of controversy after he told a reporter for The New Yorker that he didn’t feel compelled to support the Trayvon Martin case simply because he’s black.
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” Bryant, 35, said. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
Bryant seems clueless. Why didn’t he review the “facts” and then speak out? He could have responded to The New Yorker in so many different ways. Did he follow the Trayvon Martin case at all? If he clearly understood the circumstances, Bryant would know that George Zimmerman shot Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, because Zimmerman claimed he felt threatened by a black teenager wearing a hoodie. Zimmerman said Martin looked “suspicious” simply because he was Black. Even after he was was acquitted of killing Martin, Zimmerman has shown absolutely no remorse.
Bryant lives in a bubble. He resides in a mansion in a gated community, he’s sheltered from all things Black and urban and he’s removed from the streets. And that’s fine – but not being part of it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand it. But here’s the truth: Bryant can’t relate to Trayvon Martin. Maybe Jim Brown is right. The Hall of Fame NFL running back told The New Yorker that Bryant doesn’t understand the African-American culture. Bryant grew up in Italy, where his father was a professional basketball player.
“[Kobe] is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said. Whatever his reasoning, Bryant has lived in the United States long enough to understand that young black men are being gunned down by white men, many of whom are using the nation’s self-defense Stand Your Ground laws to dodge prosecution.
Unless Bryant’s head has been buried in the sand since Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon Martin because he was black in 2012, Bryant, an African-American man, should have offered a more thoughtful response. Even President Barack Obama weighed in, saying that “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
The Miami Heat players, including their stars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, were shown wearing hoodies in a now-famous photo posted on social media in support of Martin. Yet Bryant remained silent. So now black folks are angry at him – and rightfully so. One civil rights activist, Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., is calling for a boycott of Bryant’s NBA merchandise.
“African-American youth should no longer buy Bryant’s jerseys or shoes and should boycott all products he endorses,” Ali said in a statement. “Bryant doesn’t identify with the struggle that our African-American youth face nationally. So why should we continue to support Bryant who has never truly identified with the African-American experience.”
Bryant doesn’t fully identify with the black experience, but we’ve known this for years. Perhaps we’re taking Bryant too seriously. After all, he’s a professional basketball player, not an African-American scholar. Maybe Bryant just needs to talk about basketball – and perhaps we should let him.
What do you think?